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Totem Talk: The early days of restoration shaman

Joe Perez

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Totem Talk for elemental, enhancement and restoration shaman. Want to be a sultan of swing healing? A champion of Chain Heal? Totem Talk: Restoration, brought to you by Joe Perez (otherwise known as Lodur from World of Matticus and co-host of the For the Lore and Raid Warning podcasts), shows you how.

This has been a pretty exciting week for every player and every class, it seems. As I'm sure you heard, patch 4.3 is already in the works and building up to the epic confrontation with the mad dragon aspect Deathwing himself. Along with what will likely be the defining fight of this expansion, we also got some interesting news about vanity gear and some additional storage for those of us who are massive pack rats.

While we look forward to patch 4.3, this week I thought it would be the perfect time to start looking back on restoration shaman through the years of WoW's history a little bit. After all, we've come so far, and it's ever so fun to Back It Up once in a while. This week's header just seemed appropriate for the topic -- hope you enjoy the sounds of the wonderful Caro Emerald!

In the beginning ...

How many of you remember the first days of World of Warcraft? It seems like so long ago. Back in the beginning, if you played a shaman you were either a Tauren, a Troll or an Orc. There was none of this Alliance shaman tomfoolery; if you were a shaman you screamed FOR THE HORDE! While the Horde got their shaman, Alliance got their paladins. If you ask me, the Horde won that round based on that, if nothing else.

Healing wasn't easy back in the good old days; in fact, you had to heal uphill both ways in 10 feet of snow! Well, it wasn't quite that bad -- but it was still difficult. Imagine if you will a world without Riptide, without Healing Rain, where your haste for Healing Wave came from the original Improved Healing Wave and your top-tier talent was the original Mana Tide Totem. Don't forget about Reincarnation, which was just amazing to have around in the early days of raiding. In a 40-man raid, you were a mana battery for the healer group you were in; you dropped your totems dutifully and healed your group. If you were raiding in the days of vanilla, it was most certainly as restoration. You had access to the some of the coolest-looking shoulders in the game and one seriously awesome shield.

Not everything was sunshine and roses, though, as you had a very limited toolkit from which to pull. Other healers like priests made us look a little weak by comparison. It was very much a side effect of the hybrid tax at the time. The idea was that classes that could fill multiple roles or were designed to be the multi-class fill-ins would be able to do what the pure healing, tanking and DPS classes could do, just not as well. Your versatility of your character class was both your blessing and your curse.

Healing for most classes was a little bit of pain back then. The amount of organization required and the smaller healing toolkit size worked against us, but still we persevered. Shaman healers did have a few tricks, like finding something to die in so we could use reincarnation and pop up to resurrect a fallen raid member, because it didn't put us in combat right away.

Another nice trick was bending Chain Heal off of totems and around corners, since the game counted it sort of like a pet and let it just count as the first bounce point. Also, let's not forget our little champ Tremor Totem. Alliance did not have access to it at the time, and there were a few fights where breaking the fear was clutch. There were even encounters like the original Nefarian fight in Blackwing Lair that could turn our own totems against us if we weren't careful. It was truly a much different game.
And Ghostcrawler said, let there be Chain Heal -- and it was!

The very first expansion for World of Warcraft, The Burning Crusade, saw the sides balanced a little bit. The game developers at Blizzard decided that it was easier to share the shaman and paladin love between factions. Alliance was able to access the glory of shamanism through the Draenei race being introduced, and it ushered in a new era of cross-cooperation between paladins and shaman. It also ushered in the first complete revamping of our talent trees since the game's beta.

With a new expansion came new levels, new talents, and new abilities. One of the first things we received was Earth Shield, our shiny new 41-point talent. Healing Grace was a talent much needed because of the still wonky healer aggro and our ability to pull threat with an ill-timed ES. Improved Chain Heal gave our smart heal a pretty big boost, and when combined with the original Purification and Nature's Blessing, it really skyrocketed our healing throughput. The original Healing Way gave our Healing Waves quite a large boost when you gathered the proper amount of stacks.

The Burning Crusade was a very good time to be a restoration shaman. I like to refer to BC as "the rise of Chain Heal". A restoration shaman with a proper stacking of MP5 and the still-allowed downranking of Chain Heal could tip raid encounter. Not only were we needed for all of our other tricks and abilities, but we could really unleash some massive healing.

I don't know a single raid group on our server at the time that didn't have at least one restoration shaman. We lived in a time of infinite mana, excessive Chain Heals and awesome raid content. It seemed during this time we managed to shed at least some of the shackles of the hybrid tax. From the hall of Karazhan to standing atop the Black Temple, we were a much sought-after healer throughout the entire expansion. Restoration shaman also gained access to some rather awesome-looking tier gear with pretty stellar set bonuses for the time.

Restoration shaman filled some niche healing roles in vanilla WoW as well as the BC. We had some unique strengths, and our role as raid healers was firmly established as we chained our way to victory! The first two expansions had their strengths and their weaknesses in regards to restoration shaman healing, but they marked the beginning of what would still be quite a long journey.

Next week, we'll talk about Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm and what they did for restoration shaman healing.

After that, I have a bit of an assignment for you. I want you to look back over vanilla WoW, BC, Wrath, and Cataclysm with the restoration shaman in mind. I want you to pretend that you are a game developer for Blizzard for a day and you've been placed in charge of restoration shaman for that time. What changes would you make to the restoration talent tree for shaman? Would you take away? What would you add? Be sure to email me with your answer! The best or most creative replies will be featured in a post two weeks from now.

Totem Talk: Restoration lets you Ask a Shaman about the tricks of the trade. We'll introduce you to the very latest pre-raid gear and show you how to manage your cooldowns. Happy healing, and may your mana be plentiful!

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